This passage always seemed a little odd to me:
Romans 8:26 NIV In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.
27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Odd because verse 27 seems to be saying that God searches our hearts so He can know the mind of the Spirit, i.e., the Holy Spirit. Shouldn't God know what is the mind of the Holy Spirit? Shouldn't God know the mind of the Spirit of God? Shouldn't God know the mind of His Spirit? You'd think the last place God would need to look to know the mind of the Spirit would be our heart.
Anyway, that's why it has always read a little odd to me. So I'd just kind of skip over it, not sure what to make of it. I'm pretty sure it was something I read of Norman Grubb's, though I haven't been able to find it, that clued me in to the correct understanding of this scripture. Here's my interpretation of those three verses, cobbled together from different translations and my research:
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. (Romans 8:26 NRSV)
27 And the one who searches the heart knows what is the mind of the spirit because (so that gm) he intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:27 NRSV using optional translations from footnotes.)
28 And we know that in all things God works together with those who love him to bring about what is good—with those who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 options from NIV footnotes.)
Verse 26 is directly from the New Revised Standard Version. Verse 27 is also from the NRSV but using a couple alternative translations mentioned in the footnotes, "the one" in place of "God," and "he," rather than "the Spirit." My contribution is to change the Greek "OTI" translated "because" in vs. 27 to "so that." For that change I'm relying on this from the Eerdmans Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament: "Ὅτι also has a consecutive sense:that/so that (Matt 8:27 par.; Heb 2:6, etc"(EDNT). Verse 28 is a translation option from the New International Version footnotes.
Now the main point I want you to see is that Paul's not talking about God searching our hearts so God can know the mind of the spirit, but verse 27 is about us searching our hearts so we can know the mind of the spirit.
Notice that both vs 26 and 28 talk about the Sprit helping us, God working together with us. The intercession mentioned in these verses isn't something God does on His own. The "sighs too deep for words," of vs. 26 aren't vocalized, made audible, given breath, by the Holy Spirit but by us, that's our part. The bringing about what is good of vs. 28 isn't done solely by God but together with us who love him.
Our part is to yield to the Holy Spirit and utter the "sighs too deep for words," then, as we do this, search our hearts to discern the mind of the spirit, to determine what the Spirit means with these sighs too deep for words. Once we know the mind of the Spirit, the thoughts of the Spirit, we know the right words to speak, we know the "thus saith the LORD," for this situation, we know the words God would have us to speak, the intercession he would have us to make, to bring about what is good. And as we speak out the Spirits mind, as we speak God's words, God works with us to bring it about.
Once Becky and I went to pray for someone in the hospital. I knew this person and I'd been told his conditions was quite serious. He'd become infected as the result of a procedure in a doctors office. At first he was just going to tough it out, but when he began growing weaker his wife forced him to go to the hospital.
It turned out he'd become infected with one of those serious medical infections.The doctors had tried several medications and his condition hadn't improved. The way I understood it, on the day that we visited him the doctors had given him a really strong medicine normally used for chemotherapy, but his fever had still not gone down.
When we got there I asked if I could pray for him. He was very open to it and appreciative. Becky and I began to pray quietly, in the spirit, in other tongues. Paul says this about speaking in tongues:
2 For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit. (1 Corinthians 14:2 NIV)
I'm praying in the spirit, and looking to my heart because I want to know what I can believe God for, what I can have faith for, what I can believe will come to pass when I speak it. After a couple minutes, not very long at all, of praying while searching my heart, these words seemed to float up from my heart to my mind, "They're going to release you and send you home in the morning." So Becky and I prayed a little formal prayer and then, at the end, added the real prayer, "They're going to release you and send you home in the morning." As I understand it they sent him home the next morning. Praise God.
This is how we've learned to pray at our church. And I believe that's what Paul is talking about in these verses.
How you determine if your prayer was answered is what makes the difference. If you're looking to your senses for the answer you've missed it. If you're checking with the eyes of your spirit, the ears of your heart, the mind of your spirit, you're good.
Before I can show you how the money comes, before I can, "show you the money," there's a couple other things I need to establish. First, I need you to see to that the promise of prosperity isn't just a side show in the Hebrew scriptures but is an integral part, an essential piece, a core part, of God's promises, of God's covenant with Israel.
I used to read the Hebrew scriptures, what we Christians call the Old Testament, just to say I'd read them, but the Hebrew scriptures took on a new importance when I finally came to understand that the Hebrew scriptures were THE scriptures for Jesus and his disciples.
When Jesus quoted the Bible during his teaching and preaching, he was quoting the Hebrew scriptures, not the Christian scriptures. The Christian scriptures hadn't even been written yet. The Apostle Paul, and the other authors of the Christian scriptures, based their teaching on the authority of the Hebrew Scriptures, When Paul writes, "as it is written" he's quoting the Hebrew scriptures not the Christian scriptures, which were still in the process of being written. If we want to understand what Jesus, Paul and the other apostles are saying then we need to understand the Bible that was their authority, the Bible that was for them the Word of God.
One of the things I discovered, when I started studying the Hebrew scriptures for themselves, was something which, in retrospect, seems obvious. I discovered that the covenant with God, it's rules, regulations and promises, is at the center of the Hebrew Scriptures. It should be obvious that the way of living that God, in person, on Mt. Sinai, delivered to the children of Israel is at the center of the Jewish Bible. But coming from a Christian perspective, that read the Hebrew Scriptures through the lens of Messianic scriptures and fulfilled prophesies it was a surprise to me.
The Hebrew scriptures revolve around the covenant between God and Israel. God's promises to those who kept the covenant and the accompanying responsibilities of the children of Israel under the covenant, are the understood assumptions, the universal presuppositions, of everything written in the Hebrew Bible. Until we read the Bible with this in mind we'll often misinterpret the Hebrew scriptures and we'll miss what Jesus and the writers of the Christian scriptures are saying, when they quote or, as they often did, just allude to the Hebrew scriptures.
There are two sides to the covenant, Israel's side and God's side.
11 Therefore, take care to follow the commands, decrees and laws I give you today. 12 If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them…
There’s an “if” to the promises of God.
…then the Lord your God will keep his covenant of love with you, as he swore to your ancestors. (Deuteronomy 7: 11-12 NIV)
If Israel would take The LORD as their God, if they'd listen to Him, follow His ways, keep His commandments, His statutes and His laws, then He would be a God unto them, bless them, prosper them, heal them, give them long life and victory over their enemies.
The children of Israel’s part, the “follow the commands, decrees and laws part,” is set out in various places. For example one chapter back k, in Deuteronomy 6:
1 These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2 so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 3 Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you. 4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:1-5 NIV)
Jesus quotes that last verse in Matthew and refers to it as the first commandment.
36 Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law? 37 Jesus replied: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. (Matthew 22:36-38 NIV)
Then Jesus refers to the second most important commandment:
39 And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. (Matthew 22:39-40 NIV)
What Jesus calls the second most important commandment is also a quote from the Hebrew Bible. It’s one verse, of many, from a very long passage of commandments in Leviticus.
18 Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord. 19 Keep my decrees. (Leviticus 19:18-19 NIV)
David Pileggi in this wonderful talk, says Jesus, like other Jewish thinkers of his day, was coming up with a summary, or bumper sticker version, of Torah. In Jesus' case it consists of these two quotes, Love God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.
God’s side of the covenant, what God will do for those who worship Him, is one of the main themes of the Hebrew scriptures. For now we're focusing on God's covenant promise to prosper His people.
God's promises to prosper, and references to those promises, are so common throughout the Hebrew scriptures that deciding how many to list here is the biggest problem. Here's some from the books of Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Joshua, 1 Kings, 2 Chronicles, and Psalms. There are two things you should notice from these scriptures, the recurring promises of prosperity and the link between keeping the covenant and receiving the promised prosperity.
3 If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands, 4 I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees their fruit. 5 Your threshing will continue until grape harvest and the grape harvest will continue until planting, and you will eat all the food you want and live in safety in your land. (Leviticus 26:3-5 NIV)
32 So be careful to do what the Lord your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. 33 Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess. (Deuteronomy 5:32-33 NIV)
4 However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, 5 if only you fully obey the Lord your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today. (Deuteronomy 15:4-5 NIV)
1 If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. 2 All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God: 3 You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country.… 11 The Lord will grant you abundant prosperity… 13 The Lord will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom. (Deuteronomy 28:1-3, 11, 13 NIV)
9 Carefully follow the terms of this covenant, so that you may prosper in everything you do. (Deuteronomy 29:9 NIV)
8 You will again obey the Lord and follow all his commands I am giving you today. 9 Then the Lord your God will make you most prosperous in all the work of your hands and in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your land. The Lord will again delight in you and make you prosperous, just as he delighted in your ancestors, 10 if you obey the Lord your God and keep his commands and decrees that are written in this Book of the Law and turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deuteronomy 30:8-10 NIV)
15 See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. 16 For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. (Deuteronomy 30:15-16 NIV)
7 Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. (Joshua 1:7-8 NIV)
2 I am about to go the way of all the earth, he said. So be strong, act like a man, 3 and observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in obedience to him, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moses. Do this so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go (1 Kings 2:2-3 NIV)
21 In everything that he undertook in the service of God's temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered. (2 Chronicles 31:21 NIV)
1 Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, 2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. 3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers. (Psalm 1:1-3 NIV)
1 Praise the Lord. Blessed are those who fear the Lord, who find great delight in his commands.2 Their children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. 3 Wealth and riches are in their houses, and their righteousness endures forever. (Psalm 112:1-3 NIV)
1 Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him. 2 You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours. 3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. 4 Yes, this will be the blessing for the man who fears the Lord. (Psalm 128:1-4 NIV)
That God's covenant with Israel included, at its core, the promise of prosperity is pretty clear from the above scriptures. That God's side of the covenant, giving them power to prosper, depended on Israel keeping their side of the covenant should also be clear. This, if you will keep my commandments I will prosper you, pattern, occurs throughout the Scriptures. Sometimes, as in the examples above, it's quite plain, at others a little more obscure.
Next I want to show you some prosperity scriptures which, especially if you're looking at them through the lens of traditional Christian interpretation, might, at first glance, not look like prosperity scriptures.
Technorati Tags: 1 Kings 2:2-3, 2 Chronicles 31:21, covenant, David Pileggi, Deuteronomy 15:4-5, Deuteronomy 28, Deuteronomy 29:9, Deuteronomy 30:15-16, Deuteronomy 30:8-10, Deuteronomy 5:32-33, Deuteronomy 6:1-5, Deuteronomy 7:11-12, Goyo Marquez, Hebrew scriptures, Joshua 1:7-8, Leviticus 19:18-19, Leviticus 26:3-5, Matthew 22:36-40, prosperity, prosperity gospel, Psalm 112:1-3, Psalm 128:1-4, Psalm 1:1-3, word of faith
I couldn’t find the place in the Bible where God promised to give Abraham power to become rich.
I was stumped.
Then, while studying the idea of Biblical blessing and cursing, I came across this from the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament
Technorati Tags: 2 Corinthians 1:20, Abraham, Bible, bless, blessing, Genesis 12:1-3, Genesis 24:34, Genesis 24:35, Genesis 24:36, Genesis 26:1, Genesis 26:12, Genesis 26:13, Genesis 26:14, Genesis 26:2, Genesis 26:3, Genesis 26:6, Goyo Marquez, Greg Marquez, Prosperity, Prosperity Gospel, Proverbs 10:22, Psalm 1, Psalm 112, Psalm 128, successs, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, to bless, word of faith
This happened a few years back, during what was, at least for California, the depths of the economic crisis. I've been meaning to post it ever since, but just haven't.
I think it was May or June of 2010. Ms. Martha—who never fails to come to church, was one of our children's ministry leaders for years, is a faithful tither, and never complains about the pastor no matter how horrible a job I do,— stood up at the end of the Sunday service to ask for prayer.
" They said they're laying people off at work…"
Ms. Martha works for the county education department and because of the economic downturn the State of California had started furloughing people, i.e. reducing their work hours by 10% and thus reducing their pay by 10%. (It always surprised me that so many of my right wing pastor friends were so gleeful about these cuts to government spending. They seemed incapable of making the connection between cutting a persons salary 10% and that person's tithes being reduced by close to 100%?) Besides the furloughs, entire programs and departments were being cut.
If Martha had stopped there we could have prayed a nice spiritual sounding prayer, expecting that as with most prayer nothing much would happen, but wishing for the best, taken up the offerring, and all gone home. But that's not how we've learned to pray.
19 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. (Matthew 18:19 NIV)
The original word translated in English as "ask for" is the Greek word "aiteo." Now "aiteo" can mean ask, but it can also be translated "demand." (You can read more about this here.) I think the English word that best convey's what Jesus is saying here is "decree." You can tell Jesus isn't talking about asking God for something because he doesn't say it will be given them, he says, it will be done for them. So, I'd say that verse should read like this:
19 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for decree, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. (Matthew 18:19 NIV)
Jesus says basically the same thing here, again I've substituted "decree" for "ask:"
13 And I will do whatever you ask decree in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. (John 14:13 NIV)
22 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. 23 “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for decree in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (Mark 11:22-24 NIV)
You can see how the "whatever you decree" of vs. 24 fits better in the context of vs 23's "what they say," than "ask."
Anyway… so Ms. Martha doesn't stand up and ask for prayer in that traditional and traditionally ineffective way. Instead, she does exactly as we've learned, she decrees.
" They said they're laying people off at work and I want you to agree with me that, that job is mine as long as I want it to be."
'Yikes,' I'm thinking, while trying to maintain, 'now what am I going to do? This is serious business." I search my heart to see if my heart can agree. Down way deep inside I get a barely recognizable ok. But my mind is screaming pretty loud, 'You're going to look like an idiot if this doesn't work." Finally, I sucked it up and decided, well if I end up looking like an idiot, I'm going to end up looking like an idiot trying my best to believe God. So, as is our custom, I ask everyone to agree with Martha:
"Everybody… lets say this, 'That job is Ms. Martha's job as long as she wants it to be."
If two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything they shall decree, it will be done for them of my father which is in heaven. Whoooo hoooooo!
After the service I asked Becky about Ms. Martha's job. Becky's a school teacher so she's somewhat familiar with the goings on at the county education department. Becky's pretty sure they're completely cutting Ms. Martha's department!
It's our practice, at the end of the service, after everyone's faith has been built up by the teaching of God's word, to agree together about those things we've prayed about in the previous weeks, months, years, depending.
So the following Sunday, before the service, I'm thinking about Ms. Martha's prayer request. I'm kind of scared to bring it up again. I'm sort of hoping everyone will have forgotten what we prayed. I decide to put any decision off 'till the end of the service. Unless Martha's job comes up in my heart I won't mention it.
Well at the end of the service I was pretty full of faith, so when Ms. Martha's job came to mind I again asked that we all decree together,
"That job is Ms Martha's job as long as she wants it to be."
We went on like this for a few weeks. Then, one Sunday as I'm asking everyone to agree together about Ms. Martha's job, Ms. Martha starts to say something then stops herself. 'Oh,oh!' I'm thinking. 'She must have been laid off.'
So now Martha's apparently been laid off, from a program that has probably been completely eliminated by the state, and every Sunday, all of us at Church are decreeing,
'That job is Ms. Martha's job as long as she wants it to be."
Well… one thing we've learned is that when you pray things don't necessarily change instantly, or even quickly, or even slowly but showing steady progress. Often it looks like things have gotten worse. But experience has taught us that if you'll continue, if you can hold fast to the faith you started out with, God's promise will, in the end, prove to be reliable.
July… August… September… October… we're doing our best to fight the good fight of faith. At the end of every service I ask everyone to agree and say:
"That job is Ms. Martha's job as long as she wants it to be."
As far as we can tell nothing has changed.
Then sometime in October Ms. Martha stands up at the end of the service and tells us they've asked her to come back to work, to get her same job back. Whooo… hooooo… Praise God! I wanted to say like Jesus,
Ms. Martha your faith has saved you, go in shalom!
God is a good God!
Ms. Martha is still working there and that job is Ms. Martha's job as long as she wants it to be!
Church isn't supposed to be a cheap country club.
Church isn't supposed to be a place you go to make business connections, have social interactions with friends, or take a break from your work. Church is supposed to be a place you go to be coached, mentored, apprenticed, in being a Christian, by the pastor.
You should choose your church the way you choose a math tutor, tennis instructor, or golf teacher for your children, or the way you choose a trainer for yourself, not the way you choose a resort for a family vacation.
For a church attender to say, "I don't need to be discipled by the pastor, I'm a disciple of Jesus"' is exactly like a 5th grade basketballer saying,"I don't need a coach, John Wooden is my coach."
If you're not there to be apprenticed, discipled, to the pastor, then you need to find a pastor you do want to be apprenticed to, because everything else is just religous time wasting.
One thing that hinders us from doing the works of Jesus, the works which liberate and help people, the works he expects us to do…
I tell you the solemn truth, the person who believes in me will perform the miraculous deeds that I am doing, and will perform greater deeds than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. (John 14:12-14 NET, New English Translation)
One of the things that keeps us from walking in the authority of Jesus name, that frustrates our attempts to decree things in Jesus name and have them come to pass, is ignorance of his triumph.
The triumph of Jesus over the powers of darkness and his subsequent exaltation to the place of all authority in heaven and earth, has largely been forgotten, and along with it the Church’s part, our part, in giving effect to that victory.
Ignorance of his triumph means, no faith in his triumph. No faith in his triumph means, no faith in his authority. No faith in his authority means, no faith in the name of Jesus. No faith in the name of Jesus means, no faith in our mandate to decree in Jesus name and have it come to pass. No faith in our mandate means the inability to do the miraculous deeds of Jesus, to liberate and help people just as he did, and as he expects us to do.
Some nice references to tzedekah, some from the Bible, some from rabbinc literature. Tzekakah is the Hebrew word usually translated into English as righteousness but in judaism it means giving to the poor.
Here's some quotes, (the Biblical references are given using the Hebrew names for the books of the Bible, e.g. Devarim/Deuteronomy, Mishlei/Proverbs, Vayikra/Leviticus):
Here's a scripture I just came across while reading 1 John this morning, where you can see, from the context, that John is using the word righteousness with the Jewish sense of tzedakah, meaning helping the poor.
“10 In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.” (1 John 3:10, KJV)
The 'doing not righteousness' and 'loving not your brother' always read a little odd to me. They seemed to be parallels, referring to the same thing, but in English the parallel didn't make much sense.
Now lets try it substituting tzedakah*, for righteousness.
“10 In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness (tzedakah) is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.” (1 John 3:10, KJV)
Well… 'doing not tzedakah' sounds exactly like something a jew, like the Apostle John, might say, but can it possibly be what he is saying? Is he making a parallel between not helping the poor, and not loving your brother?
Read on to verses 16 and 17:
“16 Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
17 But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” 1 John 3:16, 17, KJV.
Wow! That appears to be exactly what John is saying, because here, 7 verses later, John clearly parallels loving your brother with helping those who are in need. Seeing your brother have need and shutting up your bowels of compassion toward him is what 'doeth not tzedekah' would mean to a jew.
* The word translated righteousness in this passage is the Greek word dikaiosune, almost always translated into English as righteousness. The Hebrew word usually translated into English as righteousness is tzedakah, but, as a quick google search will reveal, tzedakah has an idomatic meaning, helping the poor. The Gospel of Matthew 6:1, Paul in 1 Corinthians 9, and Luke in Acts 10:35, and now 1 John all use the Greek word dikaiosune with this Hebrew idiomatic meaning.